If most people currently avoid church (they do), how might the church change to be more welcoming to these exiles?

This was a critical question as my wife Joani and I set out to research the culture before we wrote our new book, Why Nobody Wants to Go to Church Anymore. We landed on four things that people today would like to find in a church.

In my last post I identified four reasons that people avoid church. The flipside of these things form what, in the book, we call the “Four Acts of Love.” These are the things that we find people craving, what they wish the church, the Body of Christ, would provide:

Radical Hospitality

Fearless Conversation

Genuine Humility

Divine Anticipation

In coming posts here I’ll preview each of these Acts of Love. Today I’ll start with Radical Hospitality. In our research for the book we found that most congregations believe their churches are friendly and hospitable. But they tend to make that critique based on cosmetic things that most people don’t equate with a true welcome.

We describe how Radical Hospitality is NOT:

  • greeters at the door
  • meet-and-greet time in the service
  • an espresso bar
  • parking lot attendants
  • awarding prizes for bringing visitors

Instead, Radical Hospitality begins with extending the kind of genuine welcome that Jesus demonstrated. He exemplified an unconditional love for the misfits, the outcasts, the weak, the young, the broken, the prostitutes.

We tell the story of a remarkable night when an unusual guest showed up at a Lifetree Cafe program titled “Temptation: Why Good Men Go Bad.” The hour featured a filmed interview with Ted Haggard, the megachurch pastor who started a new church after his sizzling sex scandal with a male prostitute.

Who showed up for this Lifetree episode? Mike Jones–the male prostitute whom Ted Haggard hired. He outed himself at the beginning of the hour. The tension at that moment was palpable. But one by one, the Christians in the room began to envelope Jones with Radical Hospitality. An hour of open, honest, loving conversation followed. The group tackled the issue of temptation and grappled with Jesus’ words from the Lord’s Prayer: “Lead us not into temptation.”

At the conclusion of the program, Jones stuck around and talked for another hour with Christ’s followers. He shared how he expected this crowd to react with judgmentalism toward him. He was surprised to encounter a refreshing splash of Radical Hospitality.

Radical Hospitality finds ways to welcome, to include, to love, without the snarl of judgmentalism, exclusivism, or elitism. As Jesus demonstrated, this doesn’t mean we condone a prostitute’s behavior. But we can fully accept the person. Acceptance does not require endorsement.

Jones thanked the people for welcoming him, accepting him, and listening to him. As he turned to leave, he said he wished such a place, with this kind of hospitality, existed near his home. “I have some friends I’d like to experience this.”

For the love of Christ.